Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 21 Sep 2017 12am

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    Tuesday, September 19, 2017-7:07:18A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Coral reef north of Saipan recovering from bleaching

THE coral reef north of Saipan is recovering from the bleaching that occurred recently, according to researcher Dione Swanson, adding that there is a high abundance of juvenile corals observed in the area.

She said the preliminary results of the research cruise they completed in June suggest that there was a high partial mortality of coral colonies across several species and genera around the islands north of Saipan, and most of them were pocilloporid corals (cauliflower corals).

“Although we observed high partial mortality around the islands north of Saipan, there is still live tissue left on the colonies. These are the next generation of corals and will help the reef recover faster.”

Swanson and marine ecosystem research specialist Dr. Kelvin Gorospe gave a presentation on Friday, June 23, at the American Memorial Park Visitor Center regarding the data they collected in three months of surveying t Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Aguigan.

“We surveyed all genera of corals and identified…about 100 species. Many corals cannot be identified… because they look very similar to other species when we observed them underwater. The species lists include the coral species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We found the species Acropora globiceps to be relatively common throughout the Northern Marianas archipelago,” Swanson said, adding that it suggests coral species in the NMI survived the coral bleaching.

Swanson said the bleaching they observed during their research cruise was different from the event that affected Guam and the CNMI in late 2014 and 2015.

“These colonies are starting to turn pale but are not completely white yet,” she said, adding that many scientists are predicting more frequent and severe bleaching events in the future due to climate change.

Swanson said there are ways to protect the coral reefs and encourages everyone to choose sustainable seafood and conserve water.

She said less water use means less runoff and wastewater that eventually finds its way back into the ocean.

She also encouraged people to educate themselves about coral reefs and the creatures they support.

People should not to use corals as gifts, she said. “It takes corals decades to create reef structures. Leave them on the reef.”

She said coral reefs are alive but stirred-up sediment can smother them. “So if you dive, don’t touch them.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Coral Reef Ecosystem Division team left Hawaii on the Hi’ialakai on March 26 and conducted a total of 2,866 dives to collect data on a daily basis.

Gorospe, in his report, noted that the Northern Islands have a high fish biomass which is evident throughout the archipelago’s coral reef systems.

“There is a lot of variation, but we try to account for that by visiting more sites in the surrounding areas. It takes longer to see the effects on the fish as these coral reefs respond to global climate change. The Northern Islands are very valuable resources,” he said.